Summary: Part 7 of a 13 week series Hearing Jesus Again. In this message Jesus takes on the topic of oath-making.
Jesus On Oaths
Part 7 in series Hearing Jesus Again
Wildwind Community Church
June 21, 2008
Tonight we move from the topic of casual divorce which we talked about last week into this week’s topic, which is from Matthew 5:33-37 where Jesus takes on the topic of oath-making. At first it seems like this might be a kind of boring thing to look into and stand in stark contrast to the controversy of last week’s topic. But let me tweak you by saying that I think there may be as much to make us truly uncomfortable in these five verses as there was in last week’s message. Divorce, rightly understood in proper context, is perhaps not as controversial as the church has made it out to be. But oath-making? Man, that’s an everyday thing. It gets down to where we live everyday because it’s about how we speak. Tonight’s text is from Matthew 5:33-37, and it’s on the making of oaths. I would be interested in knowing how often tonight’s passage even gets preached on in America’s churches. It’s not that any religious leader ever pronounced it irrelevant. The situation is worse, in that it is simply assumed to be, and overlooked. I’m afraid it is simply considered barely worthy of mention.
But I want you to consider something very heavy for a moment.
Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus ever once address the topic of homosexuality. But in these five verses, Jesus addresses the making of oaths – the way we talk to one another. [Hey this is fun to think about. What if the “Christian right” decided that they would only make issues out of the things Jesus actually talked about? Do you think we’d be looking at a constitutional amendment prohibiting the taking of oaths, instead of one that prohibits the marriage of gays? Instead of resisting those who would take “in God we trust” off our money, do you think the Christian right would be passing out literature aimed at helping us learn to turn the other cheek and promoting cheek-turning as the best way of relating to one another in public life?
I’m not saying homosexuality isn’t an issue and that God overlooks it, I’m just saying that we have a way of easily passing over our own sins and flaws and failures that Jesus clearly addressed and instead focusing on the struggles of others that maybe he didn’t even focus on nearly as much. Jesus even talked about this tendency we have:
Mark 7:9 (NCV)
9 Then Jesus said to them, "You cleverly ignore the commands of God so you can follow your own teachings.
Why have I said this? Not to minimize the importance of an issue like homosexuality or act like it’s irrelevant, but to maximize the importance of our text today, to show that it’s imperative that we not overlook what God has clearly said.
Do I have your attention? I hope so. I told you that in tonight’s text Jesus takes on the topic of oath-making. How many times a week would you say that you hear someone say to you, “For real, man – honest – I swear.” “Dude, I swear to God.” “Honestly – I kid you not.” We hear, and say, these things all the time. In fact I’ll bet most of you heard those examples I just gave and are already starting to think to yourself, “Are you going to tell me there’s something wrong with saying these things? What could possibly be wrong with saying these things?” For many/most of us, phrases like this are so everyday that it’s simply not in the realm of conceivability that there is any reason to give them a second look. But there is a reason – and the reason is that the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. Jesus said it’s something we need to look at!
Isaiah 40:5 (AMP)
5 … the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
In fact let’s not lose sight of what we’re talking about. Remember, in the Sermon on the Mount that we’re looking at, Jesus tells us that the human heart is vital – in fact, the heart is the most important thing about a person. Remember, Jesus is giving us examples of the difference between an external kind of righteousness based on rules, and an internal, heart-righteousness based on a heart that is properly oriented toward God and our fellow man. So it’s good for a person not to kill, or commit adultery, but you can not do those things and still harbor rage and lust in your heart, and Jesus is concerned about the heart. Not killing and not committing adultery are a poor substitute for loving your brother and honoring the opposite sex. Divorcing your spouse casually is a poor substitute for truly working through a difficult process with them that could lead either to healing or separation. It’s all about the heart.